Publisher: IDW Release date: April 2006 Number of covers: Eight Cover price: $2.99 Writer: Simon Furman Artwork: EJ Su (pencils) John Rauch (colours) Tom B. Long (inks) Rating: Art / Story
First appearance: Mister Jolly, Mister Dante, Miss Svenson, Drake, Megatron
By Omega Steve
Verity gets the shock of her life in the Decepticon bunker, while above ground Bumblebee goes into battle.
In a flashback from three years we find a younger looking, but still defiant, Verity Carlo getting a ticking off from her social worker. The middle aged woman attempting to bring Verity to her senses admits that everything they have tried has failed; fostering, state homes, support groups - all have failed because she always ups and runs.
Somewhere in Northern Nebraska in the present day, the fear that has been present all of Verity's life now seems more real than ever. But, as she descends into a shaft leading to a deserted underground Decepticon base, she feels like she is confronting her inner demons at last. This may be why Verity insisted on putting herself in the firing line first, despite the concerns of Hunter and Jimmy.
The shaft is too small for the Autobots Ratchet and Bumblebee to enter, and so they have been forced to allow their new human friends' to go in their place. The doc and Bumblebee are disobeying the orders of their unit commander, Prowl, and could find themselves in big trouble, but the stakes are high; they must find out what the Decepticon Infiltration Unit on Earth is doing and why it broke cover. Soon all three teenagers are inside the pitch black tunnels and lay blue light sticks to find their way as they split up.
Over in Dallas, Texas, the mysterious group known as the Machination has summoned a quintet of well-dressed agents for a top secret mission. 'Mister Jolly', an overweight godfather look-alike, plays a video of Blitzwing's recent rampage of destruction and says their 'acquisition strategy' must be accelerated. He hands the agents a file on the dead 'salesman' (from issue #0).
Above ground the Autobots come under air attack from Blitzwing and Skywarp, who have been ordered to cover their tracks by destroying the bunker. Bumblebee returns fire but can't keep-up with Skywarps teleporting, so he transforms, catches his gun in mid transformation, and fires off several volleys - one of which wings the Decepticon. Ratchet blinds Blitzwing, causing him to crash, but he converts to tank mode and blasts his Autobot opponent clear in the chest.
Back in the underground bunker, Verity climbs over some giant discarded materials and finds a metal container similar to a coffin. She opens it releasing a green mist, and reels in shock when she sees a skeleton still wearing its uniform. Whoever this man was he clearly died in great pain. Verity decides to continue exploring rather than return to the surface as ordered, and turns a corner only to be confronted by Megatron!
Issue #4 is an enjoyable and entertaining read - it's a little too brief for my liking but there's still a fair bit going on and ends with a great cliff-hanger. This was our first glimpse of Megatron IDW-style and I have to say he looks awesome. EJ has done a fantastic job of making him look massive, powerful and utterly menacing. As ever 'less is more' and the fact that Megatron doesn't speak really adds to the impact - I could almost feel my spine tingling and I didn't think I could find Megatron scary again after more than 20-years familiarity. You can also imagine how Verity must feel like an insect as she faces this giant; he could step on her or incinerate her in a moment. The only thing I didn't care for was the large blocks of metal on Megatron's back, which are evidently part of his new tank mode but strike me as unwieldy - although I do approve of his coolly-revamped fusion cannon.
I could imagine a significant percentage of readers are rather hoping Megs will step on Verity or obliterate her. She is not as likeable as Hunter or Jimmy but I don't want to see her go because I find her easily more interesting than the other two. Sure she is prickly and sarcastic, and picks on Hunter a bit, but she's supposed to be this way. I suspect as we find out more background about her, and see how she develops as a result of her association with the Autobots, we'll feel more affection for her. Its also quite refreshing to have a character with psychological flaws and anxieties rather than the traditional 'Spike, Sparkplug and Chip' sidekicks of the cartoons. We also gain some details about Verity's, such as how she's been in care from a young age and keeps fighting attempts by the adult world to help her. What could have caused her to be that way? Perhaps we'll learn in time.
I loved the eerie darkness of the Decepticon bunker (kudos to the art and colourists for that) and I'm intrigued to know who the corpse was. It looks like the Decepticons have been experimenting on humans, or had punished him for unknown reasons. Just like the scenes with the Machination, it leaves the reader with questions which I'm hoping get answered soon. Having re-read the comic I'm still not 100% sure how the 'salesman' ties in with the Machination. Was he an agent who infiltrated the Decepticon base and downloaded their secrets? If so how could he pull off a move like than and then get his bag robbed by a kid like Verity? Or did he come by the information by accident, meaning the Machination need to track him (and his palmtop computer) down.
The battle between the Autobots and the Decepticon planes was enjoyable. I thought Skywarp's teleporting ability was utilised to good effect, and for once Bumblebee was presented as a warrior who can hold his own against larger opposition. He may be small, but he has speed and this carries the day against Skywarp. While Ratchet seems to have forgotten that Blitzwing has a land assault mode, as well as being a plane. Oops.